The IFPI today criticized the European Parliament for voting measures to fine and jail people or companies that infringe intellectual property rights.

The proposals, voted by the Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee yesterday, does "no more than provide a minimum level of sanctions for infringements involving organized crime or carrying a health and safety risk," said an IPFI spokeswoman.

The Committee members backed measures obliging EU national governments to punish offenders with prison, and set fines of between €100,000 ($133,000) and €300,000 ($399,000) in cases where criminal organizations were involved or in cases where public health was threatened. The governments could impose heavier penalties if they so wished.

But the IFPI said the Parliament had "taken the wrong road" in trying to define key terms like "commercial scale" and "intentional" intellectual property infringements.

"There is a lot of confusion about what the proposed Directive does and does not do," the IFPI spokesperson said. "Where organized crime is involved or where there is a health or safety risk, EU member states must provide a minimum of four years imprisonment and minimum levels of fines. All other infringements continue to be dealt with under existing national law."

The vote follows measures proposed by the European Commission in 2005 requiring all national governments to impose hefty fines or prison sentences on offenders.

The venture into the contentious area of criminal lawmaking was prompted by a 2005 judgment at the European Court of Justice allowing EU penalties for environmental crimes. Proposals on copycat crime were drafted before a Commission paper published last month setting out proposals for punishing environmental crime.